How Long Are Hard Hats Good For?

Generally speaking, you have five years for the shell and one year for the inner suspension/fitting bands. However, there is no concrete rule set by OSHA for how long are hard hats good for. Employers simply follow OSHA guidelines to determine an appropriate hard hat lifespan. 

Like most helmets, if your hardhat takes a significant impact, you may want to look into replacing it. They’re relatively inexpensive, after all. Depending on your employer, you may even be given a new one within the hard hat’s lifespan. 

two civil engineers wearing white hard hats looking at large paper plan

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Do Hard Hats Expire?

Employers may give the hard hats that they sell onsite or offer to new workers an expiration date. What that means is that the employer is applying a hard hat lifespan to stay in line with OSHA guidelines or state rules concerning hardhats. 

However, there is no expiration date for hard hats. OSHA (Occupational Health and Safety Administration), nor any other safety regulatory authority places expiration dates on hard hats. Of course, if you are involved in an onsite accident, your employer may tell you to get a new one, but that’s entirely situational.

When Do Hard Hats Expire?

The general rule of thumb is five years. If your hard hat endures a violent or otherwise severe impact, the expiration date becomes ‘asap’. With all of that being said, if it’s discovered that you are wearing a hard hat that your father wore 25 years ago, you may run into some trouble. 

It’s more like a common-sense rule than anything else. OSHA doesn’t have an expiration date for hard hats and manufacturers or employers only use them to keep OSHA well off their property. However, it’s also expected that you should be a reasonable person and change your hard hat after about five years.

middle-aged house builder wearing yellow hard hat and ear protection drilling a hole in cement

How to Read a Hard Hat Expiration Date

Employees should follow ANSI Z89.1 regulations, which is exactly what OSHA refers to when it comes to hard hat PPE (Personal Protective Equipment). If your employer has placed an expiration date on your hard hat, it will be found on the underside of the rim of the hard hat, where it juts out slightly to serve as a semi-visor. 

Most of the time, the date you will find is going to be the date of manufacture, which will give you an idea of when you should retire it. The date is often in the form of a circle with 12 numbers around it like an analog clock. The year is in a two-digit format in the center with an arrow pointing to the month, one of the hours of that clock. 

How to Tell if a Hard Hat is Expired

If a hard hat has sustained any damage whatsoever, you can consider it to be expired, and you should retire it. That includes abrasions, dimples on the surface, dents, pockmarks, or any other visible sign of damage. 

The other way to tell is to look for an employer-stamped expiration or the raised lettering date of manufacture underneath the rim.

bearded construction worker wearing white hard hat and yellow long sleeved jacket

Why Do Hard Hats Expire?

Hard hats expire by both time and choice, not by date. If you’ve ever worked in a construction environment you will know that a hard hat should be inspected every day before the shift begins

The inspection should be both visual and tactile, underneath and the outer shell of the hard hat. If it is struck hard during the work day, you should retire it as soon as you can get your hands on another one. 

Manufacturer guidelines are your best source of information regarding expiration and if you ever have a question about it, you should refer to both the manufacturer and ANSI guidelines on hard hats.

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How Often Should Hard Hats be Replaced

There are multiple answers to this one depending on what happens. If your hard hat stays clean and is never impacted, you should replace it on your own every five years. If it is impacted, there is no way to determine its efficacy in the field, so you should turn it in for a new one immediately

The suspension system inside the shell should be replaced annually and many construction companies will do so for their employees free of charge. However, even if they don’t, it’s the employee’s responsibility to change them every year.

construction site with one worker shoveling gravel into a wheelbarrow while two engineers check the plan

How Often Should Hard Hats be Inspected?

Every single time you put it on. First thing in the morning or at the start of shift is the best time to sit down and go over it, ensuring that there are no abrasions or visible damage on the shell, inside and out. 

The inside and the suspension are just as important to go through, with a visual and tactile inspection, placing your hands on everything to ensure that it’s compliant and good to go.

Summing Up: How Long are Hard Hats Good For?

Hard hats are good for as long as they aren’t impacted and should be swapped for a new one every five years. That’s assuming that your hard hat goes five years without being impacted. That’s a rarity in the construction and manufacturing businesses.

Video: Hard Hat Safety Demonstration

Courtesy Rogers- O’Brien Construction on Youtube.
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